Image by frischmilch
Twitter is a microblogging platform whose main objective is to document what you’re doing in 140 characters or less (here’s a great video about it). Or at least, that’s how it started. But in the last year or so, it has grown tremendously and become a powerful social media and messaging tool.
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding Twitter these days, from discussing the plague of issues they’ve been experiencing as they try to scale the service, to the myriad of uses for Twitter. I’d like to continue along those lines and go over how you can use Twitter to build your brand.
I’ve read some articles by marketing folks on how to use Twitter, but I wanted to offer a different strategy that’s worked well for me. My approach to building your brand on Twitter is an organic one, one that naturally grows through genuine connections and interactions. Most of all, my approach is based on restraint. So here they are, my seven tips for organic twitter branding:
1. Start small
It’s not a popularity contest. It’s ok if your community grows slower than others’ by comparison. The focus should be finding people you really connect with, not amassing followers that you won’t interact with. Start by adding friends and then check out some of the people they follow; if they add to your chosen conversation, then add them too.
2. Be judicious about who you follow
There is something to be said about returning the favor when someone follows you. But I don’t think there is an obligation to do so. It will just ruin your experience of Twitter if you follow people that you don’t really relate to. Don’t just follow everyone that follows you, or that you stumble across. Make sure that they fit with your Twitter stream. If they just add noise instead of value to your stream, drop them.
3. Tweet value
Make sure you’re adding value to the Twittersphere; for example, constant complaints about whatever you’re currently frustrated about aren’t helpful. You don’t need to hide frustration, but try to employ moderation. Constructive criticism and offering alternatives are a good route to take if you need to vent a bit, that way everyone wins.
4. Start conversations
Start conversations by asking a question about a topic, getting people’s thoughts on subjects, etc. Starting dialog with your Twitter community is a great way to get to know people. It lets you see who specializes in what and also give them a glimpse of what you’re interested in.
5. Add to others’ conversations
The opposite is also true. Look for conversations other people are starting and join in. Answer questions, voice your opinion. This shows you’re genuinely interested in the conversation and further encourages camaraderie. But keep it genuine and don’t throw your two cents in just to appear interested. In the long run, you’re doing a disservice to both your community and yourself.
6. Keep a good balance
Try to maintain a good balance of professionalism and personality. Give your Twitter friends an idea of who you are without boring them with personal details, but it doesn’t need to be business all the time. Remember that you attract people who are interested in the same things as you are. So if you joined twitter to make friends, then focus more on the personal side, but if you joined to grow your professional network and build your personal brand, make sure you don’t go overboard on the personal details.
7. Know when to stop
Follow some basic Twitter etiquette and know when it’s time to drop a subject or move it off Twitter. No one likes a drawn-out conversation between a select few, just drowning out other people on your Twitter stream. If a topic becomes a bit too verbose, I usually begin direct messaging or send them a direct message with my IM screenname or other contact details so we can continue the conversation privately.
Once you’ve created this network and built genuine connections (which doesn’t happen overnight), you begin to have some weight in this community through adding value to the passing conversation. Your brand equity gradually grows as your community (and your involvement in that community) grows. My community isn’t big by most Twitter users’ standards, but that’s not the key to building your brand online. The classic approach to marketing seems to be to get as many people through the doors as possible, or in online terms to get as many eyes on your site as possible. In some cases, this just creates a lot of unnecessary overhead; my alternative approach is to always be looking to further qualify my demographic. So by creating genuine connections, I’m guaranteed a higher-quality of people tuning into my brand, because I’m genuinely involved in the conversation, and so are they. The bottom line is that it’s more about quality than quantity, and adding value to the Twittersphere, rather than just noise.